U.S. Bancorp Foundation: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: The U.S. Bancorp Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the financial services company, and provides grants in the areas of education, workforce development, economic development, affordable housing, and arts and culture in the areas where its bank has a presence.

IP TAKE: The U.S Bancorp Foundation is a significant grantor of visual arts organizations—particularly museums—within its focus on arts and culture, viewing this support as part of a larger context of community development and uplift. This funding includes the potential for general operating costs, and it’s an open application process. But keep in mind that your visual arts project must take place in one of the 25 states where its corporate side does its banking. 

PROFILE: The U.S. Bancorp Foundation is the philanthropic arm of U.S. Bancorp, the financial services company based in Minneapolis. A word here about corporate nomenclature: The company U.S. Bancorp is often referred to as U.S. Bank, which is the signage their bank storefronts (and commercial website) use. By extension, U.S. Bancorp Foundation is often referred to as U.S. Bank Foundation—on its own website, the two names are used somewhat interchangeably. But be aware that formally speaking (including by IRS designation) the foundation we’re about to discuss is the U.C. Bancorp Foundation.

No matter what you call it, this foundation is committed to giving grants to arts organizations. Recently, the foundation gave more than $23.4 million, and 17 percent of that went to its focus on Cultural and Artistic Enrichment, with directives to develop audience (particularly in underserved populations), bring “select and limited civic amenities” to rural community, and to promote arts education.

Visual arts is a major aspect of this granting area, viewed by the foundation as a key to its granting mandate is to support uplift and development for communities in need—within the 25 states where its banking occurs: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Unlike many of its corporate granting peers who give to arts organizations, U.S. Bancorp Foundation earmarks grants for general operating support as well as program support (and capital projects too, under stricter circumstances).

In the world of visual arts, U.S. Bancorp Foundation places a heavy emphasis on museums (though perhaps they are also applying more than other visual arts groups). But in a nice change of pace, these museums are working and producing within a range of communities—big, small, urban, and rural—as well as presenting a diverse array of visual art.

Across all types and focus areas of giving, the foundation’s watchwords are “innovative” and “effectiveness.” It doesn’t define either adjective further, but they are certainly descriptors to be mindful of when you approach U.S. Bancorp Foundation for a grant.

Functionally speaking, you can apply for a grant on the foundation's website.

A sliver of recent visual arts grants dispensed by U.S. Bancorp Foundation include:

    On the corporate side of the equation, U.S. Bancorp has a Corporate Sponsorship program that supports a small and select group of “leading arts and cultural organizations.” Visual arts is not prevalent within this very short list, but if you're a very big player, you can try to pursue this avenue as well.


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